Sunday, December 17, 2006

Guess where am I?!

A lazy winter afternoon, a bed in the sun, tons of sunday newspapers to read and tons of food............HOME! During day time hours, the garden with its bed and moodha's (cane and jute chairs, as seen in pic) is going to be my haunt. It is not that cold here - nothing compared to MO. But it is still immensely pleasureful to sit out in the sun and get totally baked. Once the sun sets and its gets colder......well somehow you seem to have a heat source inside of you after absorbing all that sun!

A lawn, a bed, sun and Sunday papers -- heaven ?

Today someone we know sent over 'typical Delhi breakfast' for us. It consisted of 'bedain' (a puri-like bread that is stuffed with chilli flakes, anise and other spices), tomato-pea stew, chana masala, methi (mustard) chutney and pickled carrots. Then comes the dessert -- hot jalebis dipped in milk and halwa!!!

Sunday Breakfast!
clockwise: jalebi, halwa, bedian (puri), chana masala, fenugreek chutney, pickled carrots, potat-pea curry.

The thing on the left side...I dont what it is! It was like baby puri's meant to be eaten with halwa. But I think it is different from puri.........will find out soon.

A 'bedain' : puri-like structure full of coursely crushed spices

The King: A Jalebi dipped in milk

The location: Haunt for next 4 weeks!

Note the bed in the background of the picture above. It is sorely needed! Because the breakfast above was preceded by a "light" (my mom's words) snack of peas & poha and succeeded (within 3 hours) by a lunch with 5 items!!!!! I have been back about 48 hours yet I swear I have eaten more than I usually do in a week!!! Given my sonambulistic state right now, I wont share any recipes today. I will just say that there are simply wonderful things happening here because winter is the best season for veggies in north india. Plus we have many many traditional winter foods (like bajre ki khichdi) and we have many many people whose sole aim is to feed me!!! So this is going to a culinarily interesting few weeks!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I got Tagged! Here's what I would cook if my favourite food bloggers came for dinner!

Thanks to Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen for tagging me! I love cooking and I LOVE cooking for people other than me (as recent readers would know). So here is a dinner that I would cook for my favourite people and I hope that all of you enjoy the very very non-fancy, home-cooked feel of this meal. As we say in Rajasthan, 'Padharo mahre ghar, sa' (Please come into my home, sir)!

Appetizer: Baked sam's with home-made corriander chutney. This was my entry for the Diwali special JFI. Recipe is here!

Entree 1: A bowl of rice topped with super-simple chickpea curry topped with (store-brought) hot kerela mix namkeen, further topped with cucumber-red onion-corriander 'raita' . The heat in the chickpeas and the namkeen is wonderfully balanced by the cool yogurt relish!

1 cup chickpeas (soaked over night). You can also use the canned variety.
Oil 1 tsp
Ginger chopped 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Pepper corns 5-6
Big cardamom 3-4 (these provide a huge kick to the recipe)
Corriander pwd, red chili powder and Chana masala powder 1 tsp each
Tomato puree 1/4 cup (You can also use chopped tomatos)

Heat the oil, add the pepper corn and big cardamom. Once they pop, add cumin seeds. Once they brown, add everything else! Oh, and salt. Pressure cook till the chickpeas are done but not falling apart. Garnish with corriander and serve!

This is a really down-home recipe used for chickpeas in large parts of north india. A lot of people do not use onions and garlic in home food in UP, Rajasthan, MP. Yet everyone loves chickpeas so this is an adaptation of the popular Punjabi preparation that we all know and love. What I like about it is the lightness of the dish! The proper use of onions and garlic means that they need to be slow roasted in oil. And the quantity of the oil needed is not insignficant!

For the yogurt relish: 2 cups yogurt (beaten so that it has a creamy texture), 1/4 chopped red onion, 1 large cucumber chopped. Mix everything together. Add water to obtain the consistency you like. Season with salt and dried mint. I use my mom's raita masala. Will have to wiggle the recipe of that out of her soon.

Entree 2: A bowl of steaming Mangori-Methi in a yogurt gravy, home-made parantha's (in ghee!) and red chili pickle.

To balance tomato-based curries, I like to use yogurt based curries. This one uses 'Mangori'- a small nugget that is made from ground lentils, seasoned and then sun dried. These are quite nutritious and really great dry ingredients to have on hand. The typical mangori curry has potatoes and/or peas. But I added 'methi' (Fenugreek) greens and they provided a lot of depth and interest with their slightly bitter taste.

'Mangori' 2 fistfuls
Buttermillk 1 cup
Chopped potato 1 big
Green chillies 2-3 (just remove the tails)
Ginger chopped 1 tsp
Methi greens (i used one handful of the frozen variety that you get in Indian stores)
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Heeng (asafoedita) 1/8 tsp
Corriander & red chili powders 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala 1/4 tsp

In a pressure cooker, heat 1/2 tsp oil. Put in the cumin seeds and the heeng. Once they roast properly, add the mangori and fry it on medium heat. The idea is to fry away some of the 'un-cookedness' of the mangori. This is how mom describes it. At some point, the yellow mangori nuggets will start turning brownish red.

At this point, add potatos and green chili, and the powders (not salt!). Stir for 45 seconds and add the buttermilk (you can also use beaten, watered down yogurt. The idea is that the more sour the yogurt, the better the curry). Lower the heat to low and stir! Add the methi. It does take some time to get the buttermilk up to a boil.....but too much heat too soon means that the buttermilk will split and that is not good. If it does happen (and it will!), 1 tsp of besan (chickpea flour) keeps the thing together.

Once the curry has reached boiling point, add salt. Close the lid and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles. Garnish with corrainder and some garam masala. Ready!


Raw papaya curry (adapted from the wonderful recipe at Cookerific)

Monday is Fruit-day for me. That is, I eat only fruits. The main reason why I had to institute fruit day two years ago is that I realised that I dont eat any fruits at all! My parents love fruits and our home is usually stocked with seasonal fruit but somehow I have not developed a love for fruits. To the extent that I realised that my fruit intake was starting to be restricted to 3 months a year (when I go home)! Obviously, I was losing out on a lot of good nutrients and hence I started fruit day.

I try (within time and budget constraints) to eat many varieties of fruit. And this one time I picked two papayas. Unfortunately, I forgot to eat them on monday and there they were sitting in my fridge. Good thing too, since they were quite raw! At times like these you appreciate the blogger community.Within minutes I had a wonderful recipe from Cookerific that I was able to adapt since I did not have kala chana at hand.

Sauteed carrots and carrot greens:

At home, we almost always cook the greens associated with several root/tuber veggies. One of my favourites is Radish and radish green saute. The next best is carrots with carrot greens. Just that what I got here werent really greens.....more like green stems. But whatever. They have a slightly pungent (citrus-y?) taste and it really balances the sweetness of the carrots well.

Simply chop up all available parts of a carrot. Heat some oil, season with cumin. Put in everything else plus corriander pwd, red chilli pwd, salt...........anything that takes your fancy.

Dessert: Home-made Mysore Pak (adapted from several recipes, including Indira's)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kitchen Sink Tragedy!

Well, I have given it a try. For 3 solid months! But I HATE cooking for myself! There is no getting around it. I HATE it, i HATE it, I HATE it!

Whew. With that out of my system, let me tell you the reason for it. Because there seems to be no way that I can avoid throwing away food/ingredients.........and to satisfy my cravings! I brought some mushrooms abt 2 weeks ago and didnt get around to doing anything with them. Why, you ask? Well, because I had left overs from previous meals and I keep planning new meals around them so that I can finish everything. Good thought, you say. Yes! But if you are cooking for yourself, left overs last FOREVER! And you never get to the new ingredients!!!

What to do???

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween, All!

For all you parents out it ok if I give your trick-or-treating kids fruit on tuesday? I dont really believe in handing out candy to kids who are probably already over-dosed on over-processed, over-sweet, over-salted food(not YOUR kids, precisely. just in general).........but according to this post on slashfood, it would make me a party-pooper! I am not!!! But I also dont think that "one night of the year you can binge" is a good message to give!


Friday, October 27, 2006

Really, what are good manners?

This is my first non-food post and I now realise how hard those are to write! Particularly when you dont know who reads your blog! But anyway, I have an issue that I would like to share. Or rather get all of your opinions.

What are manners anyway? Is it really a big deal if your guests start eating before you come to the table? If you wont do it to other people....does that mean that you cant be (a teensy-meensy little bit) mad when some one does it to you? And most importantly, if your guests were waiting for you, you would SURELY pop your head into the dining room and tell them to dig in! Then why feel wierd when they do it without you telling them? Is it cos your mom would probably box your ears (over the phone, that too!) if she knew you had started eating without the host there?

Anyway, it happened to me. And it was wierd since it was the first time. I dont know if it was a cultural thing. I assumed that in almost all cultures ( and age groups) there was this thing of waiting for the host. Not in mad, grad-student pot luck parties maybe.............but even then usually the appetizers that had been kept out disappeared....the actual food was eaten in a more civilized manner. The funny part is also that I have a friend who is exactly the other extreme and that is also disconcerting! She just wont start eating until you are eating too. Well, sometimes as a host you have to not eat, get up to serve, to get fresh bread etc etc. So the other extreme is quite uncomfortable too.

Which brings me to smthg else- is it the nature of serving Indian food that makes it difficult for the host to join in? I mean, if you ferrying hot bread (parantha, roti, puri or dosai) from the kitchen to the dining room, doesnt that automatically exclude you from the gathering? I realise that in western cuisines there are courses and the host needs to get up to bring in the salad, soup and entree. But they can eat with their guests within a course.

Which brings me to the issue of Indian cooks (all women, mostly) have managed over the ages. But if you think about the way food would be served in a traditional Indian house (say grandmom's generation) there are ways in which the person cooking and serving can feel part of the process. In the north indian households that I know, either the kitchen was large enough for everyone to sit or food was served in a area very close to the kitchen. Most old houses have courtyards and almost all rooms of the house open into the courtyard. Because its really hot in the summer, part of the courtyard maybe be shaded and that is where the family would sit to eat. So could it be that the architecture of old houses was partly designed to make sure that everyone (including women who were cooking and serving) could see and hear everything during the meal and hence felt part of it? If you have any stories about how food is/was served in your house/part of the country/country then I would love to hear those.

So.........I am unreasonable to feel a little cheesed-off? Or maybe its just unreasonable to think that there are some universal elements to manners? Or maybe I just need suggestions about how to serve Indian breads (hot and fresh) without making them right there and then. I have tried aluminuim foil+ oven, damp towel+oven, damp towel+microwave...............they dont work that well, do they?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Diwali Goodies!

Spurred on by this month's Jihva for Ingredients hosted by Vee of Past, Present and Me, I am posting TWO (and a half) Diwali goodies that are made in our home. Before I jump into the recipes, let me heartily thank Vee-- THANK YOU. I have been away from home for the past 5.5 years and I always felt that I was keeping up, remembering, not forgetting anything because I go back home every few months in a year. My frequent visits are much-needed infusions of sanity in my life, full of great times with family and friends......... and also a comfort to me because I feel that I am still totally connected with India. I can talk about a new shop opening or a new play that I saw in Delhi as well as in the US. I moan traffic laws in India and here, I watch soaps in India and here (soaps are cool! you can not watch them for 4 months, yet still catch up on the happenings in a jiffy). So I thought I was soooo cool...........until this month's JFI got posted. Then I realised that I had not been home for Diwali for 5 years. I didnt remember what we cook on Diwali. A time-and-money-pressed student existence in the US wasnt conducive to making Diwali I forgot. Dont get me wrong- we always managed to do something for Diwali like pot-luck dinner or something. But neither time nor resources ran into making anything other than entrees that would feed 10-15 people.

I have to say, it was not a pleasant realization. My little bubble of connectedness was burst.
Maybe I would become a distant 'NRI' whose idea of India is through Bollywood movies..............but maye not! In swoops Vee ( and Mom) to the rescue! So thanks Vee, for giving me the opportunity (and incentive) to re-create Diwali and all its attendant rituals in my home here.

So what I am plan to make are 2 sweets and 1 savory dish. The savory is an old favourite with pretty much everyone I know. The much loved, much eaten, much made.........Samosa! But theres a twist here. Its a SUPER-HEALTHY, SUPER-BAKED SAMOSA. Thanks to both Indira and Shammi for putting the germ of the idea in my head. And since it is a festival ( and anyway I am a good girl) I am not lying or exaggerating at all when I tell you that they came out fantabulous! They were the best samosa's that I have ever made.........and they tasted like ones that you get in the St. Stephens caffe, or the chaat-walla on Chaura Rasta in Jaipur, or Bengali Sweets in New Delhi! Funny how hard one has to try to re-create shop-made tastes at home. So here it is- my twist on home-made 'sams'.

1 Boiled, mashed Potato
1 fistful Lightly cooked Peas (de-frosted if frozen)
3-4 Red & green chilies chopped
4-5 sprigs Fresh corriander
1/4 tstp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Corriander powder
1/4 tsp Red chili powder
1/4 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp Corriander seeds

Sputter the cumin seeds in 1 tsp of oil. Put in all the above ingredients and roast on a gentle flame until a nice smell comes from the filling. Mash in all together nicely while this happens then set aside to cool for a bit.

Surprise Ingredient! 1 Frozen puff pastry! I let it defrost on a plate for about 30 minutes before doing anything. It becomes very pliable after that. Since it was little thick, I powdered it with a little AP flour and rolled it (just a little) thinner. Then take a butter knife and cut it cross-wise into 4 triangles..

Use one of the triangles and roll it into a triangular cup. In order to seal the edges, you can pinch the edges so that they stick together. Fill this triangle with the stuffing and seal the top part.

Line up all the little stuffed triangles on a baking sheet and put in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Then turn the samosas over and bake on 400 for another 10 minutes. Serve!

These little babies are delicious! Then I got a little adventurous and tried out a store-brought frozen Malaysian paratha for the crust and these turned out wonderful as well! In fact, I preferred these over the puff-pastry but you can judge what you liked bet ter yourself. There is absolutely no need for any kind of oil in this recipe. In fact, if you want you can not use any oil at all in the filling. Just mash boiled veggies together and put in the spices- a different, earthy flavor.

The recipe from start to finish took about 1.5 hours. The most efficient order of things was to
1. Put the puff pastry/ Malaysian paratha to thaw.
2. In the meantime, make the filling.
3. At the time that you are ready to roll and cut the pastry into pyramids, set the oven to pre-heat.

So here is a Diwali treat served with home-ma de corriander chutney, tomato sauce and a piece of home-made Mysore pak! Happy Diwali everyone!

Wait! There's more! My curiostiy with what all I could do with this new, healthy, light technique to make sam's was almost unbounded! I wanted to try making Dal(lentil) Samosas. These are very popular in Rajasthan and UP particularly since they are almost indestructible and can last months. However the way to make these is a little cumbersome since one has to soak the lentils and then grind them...and then fry them. Wasted effort when someone else has already doe most of the work! Who, you ask? Why, Haldiram of course, God bless his soul!

I used Haldiram's Moong Dal namkeen and seasoned it with salt and spices. Then I used this as a stuffing. Excellent!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Home-cooked Goodness on a cold, cloudy Monday

A bowl of hot Potato & Peas curry flanked by Sauteed Radish, fresh hot 'Parantha's' and red chili pickle. In the backgroud, gourmet, all natural sea salt from Utah, courtesy of Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Practice makes Perfect

It was lovely Fall day and a saturday when I had an enlightening encounter with food bloggers in the St. Louis area (and some from quite far away). Thanks to Alanna of Veggie Venture for organizing this event. Part of the proceedings was lessons on plating by Bruno of Zinfully Delicious! And lessons in food photography from professionals! So I was dying to practice all that I had learnt and here it is.

Again, there was scramble in the fridge for ingredients. Unfortunately other than wilted corriander and some relatively fresh tomatoes and big green chillies, I didnt find anything substantial. Plus I was dying of hunger. So here is a super quick rice recipe. I think the only innovation here was using a huge block of ginger to flavor the water while the rice was cooking.

Corriander-Tomato-Pepper Rice

1.5 cups Rice
1 bunch Corriander (chopped roughly)
1/2 Red onion chopped
2 Tomatoes (chopped big)
1 Big green chili (choped big)
3-4 inch Ginger
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Sambar pwder
2-3 cloves
2 dried red chili
3 Big cardamom pods
1/4 tsp Cumin seeds

How to?

1. 1 tsp oil+ dry spices. Once the cumin seeds pop, put in the onion. Fry on medium for 3 mins
2. Bung in tomatos, chili, ginger, corriander. Stir for 1 min.
3. Bung in the rice, turmeric, salt, sambar pwd.
4. Put 3 cups of water, cover, cook till rice is done.

Above pic shows some of my Indian cookig vessels. Beautiful, black, anodized metal, easy-to-clean, much-healthier-than-non-stick, much-cheaper-cos-I-bought-them-in-India vessels! Last spring there was this huge article in the NYT and the author was basically on a mission to find alternatives to non-stick cookware since there have been recent studies that point to some hitherto unknown concerns with non-stick vessels. It is common knowledge that once the black coating gets chipped, one should use the non-stick pan anymore. But new research cast some doubts about using non-stick on high heats. And since quite a few parts of Indian cooking are done at very high heat levels, I decided not to buy non-stick stuff anymore.

Plus the article in NYT pointed out two alternatives (these were tested on ease of cleaning as well as amount of oil required to prevent burning, among other things). One was a ceramic type material (European, super-expensive) and the other was anodized metal. I already had a gun-metal (!) vessel from India that I loved but it was really big and I was looking for cook and serve type things. So this summer when I found the two pots shown above, I was very happy! I plan to slowly buy all the pots and pans in this series (they have reduced weight allowances on airlines!!!!) They are available in quite a few places and in a variety of sizes and shapes. They are quite heavy and stable and awesome to cook in and to clean. I also got a new pressure cooker (nice shiny black anodized) to match all these.

Back to plating!!!!!!

The rice was ready. Another scramble through the fridge revealed 5-day old curry and yogurt. Thus a plate was created.......I guess it isnt that original. But it loooked darn good.
Here it is-Spicy Tomato-Corrainder-Chili Rice, flanked by hearty vegetable curry and 'boondi' raita.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Can some one tell me how I can put a blog roll on this thing?!!! I am ANNOYED!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Forget the spice box, where's the camera???!!!

Hello, hello hello! New camera! New enthusiasm to cook! Not much ingredients :( But still I tried my best and it came out WELL, even if I say so myself! I call it the One Pot East West Hot Pot. Its a mix between a curry and a hearty soup and uses some Indian ingredients in a western way.

Which brings me to something that I have always wondered. The Indian methodology of 'tadka' or seasoning a dish with mustard or cumin seeds popped in smoking hot oil......whats up with that? Why is it done? And more importantly, how come this tastes soooo different from simply putting in cumin or mustard seeds?

Another question/observation on which I would love feedback. I have noticed that sometimes for people who are new to Indian food, this seasoning can be really strong. They might be fine with the hot-ness level of the dish............but the seasoning can really push it over the edge. Has anyone else noticed that? Also, is that why you dont see/taste 'tadka' in Indian restaurants?

One-Pot East West Hot Pot

Any and all veggies (I used frozen stew veggies (carrots, celery, potato, pearl onion))
1 Jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/4 Red onion chopped (just for a fresh flavour)
3 cups Veggie stock
2-3 inch Ginger
3 Garlic cloves
1/4 cup Tomato puree
1/4 cup Yogurt
1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
1 Bay leaf (mada
2 Dried red chillie
1 tsp Olive oil
3 springs Cilantro
How to?

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pot, put in the chopped onions and jalapeno, fry on medium for 3mins.
2. Bung in the veggies (defrosted, if frozen), tomato puree and veggie stock. Put in hte bay leaf and cumin seeds. Add water, if needed (depends on what consistency you want this surry=soup+curry).
3. Let cook for 15 mins on medium-low heat. Cover if you are using fresh veggies that need to cook. Keep adding water as and when needed.
4. Turn off the heat. Let sit for 5-10 mins. Once the surry is a little cool, add and yogurt and cilantro. Keep stirring till the yogurt is fully incorporated. Serve with old, crusty bread!
Pssssst! When I did the last step, the surry was still too hot and the yogurt started splitting. Not nice! So I added 1 tsp all purpose flour to keep it together :P

So what is east-west about this? Well, I did not pop the cumin seeds or the bay leaf or red chili in hot oil. I simply put them in. Then the addition of the yogurt right at the end with almost no cooking. To my knowledge (and DO correct me if I am wrong), this is not done in Indian cooking. Either yogurt is seved chilled as raita or pachadi or it is cooked properly in a curry (See rajasthani 'gatte' recipe on this blog). Upshot: it tasted Indian......yet not quite. Interesting.

Next post- my BEAUTIFUL cooking vessels from India! Sneak peak! Its a 'Dhania Daani'. Literally translates into Corriander/Cilantro holder. The holes are deliberate and admit the fact that cilantro needs to breathe like crazy in order to survive.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hello All! My NEW CAMERA is here! I know that I am un-naturally excited but its becos I have missed it SOOOO much while blogging!!!! How do you explain 'drips off a spoon..........but not too quickly'? Well..........I neednt anymore! Its here!!!!

So my first few pics are of Egg Masala Chaaru, courtesy of Latha of

There arent poppy seeds at home.......but I am making the best of it!

Expect more pics soon! Also, any suggestion for camera names?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Almost-there Beans Tempura

So you buy a bag of fresh green beans thinking that you will make something delicious out of them soon. Then the bag gets pushed further and further back into the fridge plus you have a deadline+ an exam to make. What do you get? An almost-gone to heaven bag of beans! What a tragedy!
So you turn it around! Like a true heroine, you take on the challenge and come up with.......this!
Note: I thought of this BEFORE a major chain started advertising a similar 'new' item on TV.

1 bag almost there beans
2 tblsp Gram flour
1 tsp Corriander powder
1/2 tsp Red chili pwd
1/4 tsp Garam masala
Salt to taste
Oil to fry

Ok---oil to fry doesnt sound too good, does it? But there was a solid reason behind the frying decision--since the beans were almost gone, I needed to make sure that they cooked really well so that I killed all bacteria and other evil stuff that might have escaped my cutting and scrapping.

How to do?
1. Put all ingredients (except beans and oil) in a bowl and mix. Add some water and make a batter of thick-ish consistency. The kind that will drip off a spoon...but not too fast.
2. Dip the beans into the batter and then deep fry till light brown.

So basically these are bean 'pakora's. Unsual but really good! The beans were nice and crisp despite the frying and I am seriously thinking of adding beans to my library of things to fry.

Friday, September 22, 2006

On-pot 'Shahi' (Royal) Khichdi (hotch-potch)!!

So as readers may know, I am having trouble cooking for one person. I have realised that it is quite difficult to eat balanced meals when one is alone, for 2 reasons. 1. It doesnt seem worth it for 1 person. 2. Optimal allocation and use of fresh veggies! So taking Mom's (and Nupur's) suggestion, I am trying out various one-pot dinners. This is my variation on Mom's recipe of khichdi (the word literally means a hotch-potch or a mish-mash of things). Simple and nutritious and easy.


1 cup Moong dal (yellow in color) or any lentils that you may have.
1/2 cup Rice
1/2 cup chopped Onions
1/2 cup assorted veggies (anything in the fridge or the freezer)
1 tsp Oil
5-6 Pepper pods
2-3 Big(black) cardamom seeds
2-3 Laung (cloves)
1/2 tsp Jeera seeds (cumin)
1/4 tsp Red chili pwd
1/4 tsp Corriander pwd
1/8 tsp Garam masala
Oil or ghee


1. In a pressure cooker, heat the oil/ghee, put on the pepper pods, big cardamom seeds, cloves and cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds have popped, add the chopped onions and saute for 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the assorted mix veggies to the pot along with the powders. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
3. Put in the washed lentils and rice, add salt to taste and 4 CUPS OF WATER (yes, it sounds like a lot....the whole idea is to get a consistency of baby food, almost).
4. Give 2-3 whistles in pressure cooker. Ready!

It is usually served with yogurt, poppadums and any hot pickle. For the ultimate comfort food, pour some hot 'ghee' over the serving and dig in!

Note: It looks quite wierd once it cools down! It totally sticks together, kinda like! But not to worry cos with a sprinkle of water, it heats up really well for lunch or next-day dinner. I took it to work and was amazed at how a 2 minute microwave turn changed its personality as well as edibility (that a word?).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Work Picnic Salad

I had to go for a work-picnic thingie and signed up to get salad. Didnt want to do the usual potato thing and had the foresight to soak some chick peas, black beans (rajma) and black eyed peas. Coincidently, on the morning of the picnic I was watching Ellie Krieger on the Food Network and saw this great dressing called Tzatziki. Traditionally it dresses grated cucumber but ince it was so interesting I decided to try it with my combinatio of beans and peas.

1 can each Chick peas, black beans and black eyed peas (or dry peas and beans, soaked for 2 days)
1 cup hung yogurt
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp lemon zest
3 tsp lemon/lime juice
6-7 chopped mint leaves (or corriander leaves)
salt and pepper

In a big bowl, put the hung yogurt and olive oil, combine. Put in everything else, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. You can make it as garlic-y and as lemon-y as you want.

It really came out well and I love the combination of yogurt and lemon. Very refreshing and it set of the beans and peas very well.

Also, hanging yogurt always seems like such a pain and hassle. But the way Ellie did it was really simple. A bowl with a fine colander lined with a paper towel. The paper towel was a really good trick which didnt demand a cheese cloth (i never have it on hand) or the use of one of my dupatta's (ever had pink yogurt?).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pindi Chana
Hello All! Its been some time since I blogged. Sorry about that. Am facing several living-alone issues. One of them I have already mentioned---since I am used to cooking for 6-8 people (at least) on a regular basis, its VERY difficult getting up the enthu to cook for one! And now another issue---I love using fresh veggies + I dont have a car so dont go grocery shopping regularly=A lot of the veggies I buy go bad before I get around to using them. If you use a whole cauliflower then you get stuck eating it for at least 7 days.....if you use half, then what to do with the other half? Shove it at the back of the fridge until it starts to smell and you need to throw it away............?

So food management is a big problem. I dont like wasting stuff but I dont want to shift completely into frozen things either. Any solutions? It would be great to hear from people about their ideas.

Today, I am a little enthusiastic so I am going to make Bhatura's with Punjabi Chana. Usual preparations of chick peas are usually what we call 'Chhole'. Punjabi or Pindi chana, on the other hand uses different spices, is dark in color and is quite dry. The perfect pindi chana will have the exactly right consistency--there is enough moisture to wrap the spices all around each and every pea.........and no more. Lets see if we can achieve it today.


Chick peas- 1 can or 1 cup soaked overnight and pressure cooked till they are soft but NOT falling apart.
Pindi/Punjabi Chana masala-2 tsp store bought
Onions- 1 big red one, chopped
Green chillies- 4 sliced long
Bay leaves- 2, Big cardamom 4, Cinammon stick 1, Pepper corns 15
Haldi 1/2 tsp, Red chilli pwd 1/2 tsp, Dhania pwd 1 tsp, Garam masala 1/4 tsp, Amchur 1/2 tsp

1. Heat 2 tsp oil in a big pan. Add the "khadha" masala (literally translates into "Standing" spices, means all non-powder spices). Once the oil is infused with all the flavors, remove the pieces of spices. Put in the onion and garlic and on medium heat, saute for about 10 mins stirring as and when. Put off the heat when the onions smell nice and roasted and have left pretty much all their water. Leave to cool.
2. One the above is cool, put it into a blender and pulse a few times until you have an imperfect paste (not tooooo smooth, should have a home-made touch). Heat the used pan on lowish-medium heat and put in the roasted, ground onion-garlic paste. Put in the powders and green chillies. Stir and roast, stir and roast, stir and roast....until the spices start giving a nice, done smell (about 15 mins). If it starts sticking, you can sprinkle a little water from time to time.
3. Put in the boiled chickpeas, stir thoroughly, sprinkle half cup water and cook on medium-low flame. Season to taste. Cook till it reaches the perfect consistency................DONE! Oh! And its NECESSARY to put lots of lime/lemon juice on top before serving.

Serve with...: Chop some onions and green chillies finely, dress with lemon juice, salt, red chillie pwder and vinegar (if you like).

As I mentioned earlier, Pindi chana are quite dark in color. Usually the ingredients of the store-bought powder (in particular, pomegranate) should darken the chanas. But in case they dont, substitute some cooled-down tea water in Step 3 for normal water. Tea water=water in which tea has been brewed for about 7-8 minutes.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Two-minute Ginger Pickle

Its been a really really long and hectic fortnight. I moved from my university to my new place of exhausting and scary event. I relish the fact that I have attained a milestone and am moving on to another phase of my life.........but that doesnt mean that its not scary! I really like the new place where I am at......but I miss familiar faces , places and friends like crazy. Am back here to visit them all this weekend.......But once that craving got satisfied, another arose- I miss home! I want my mommy!

But since mommy can not be had right now, a close substitute is something she makes for me. Continuing my series about my favourite things that I am fed before I leave home for comes Two-minute ginger pickle! Super-simple and great to eat with ANY kind of food (I have even mixed it in pasta!).

Ingredients: Fresh Ginger, lime/lemon juice, salt, red chili pwd, green chillies (chopped fine)

1. Scrape the skin off the ginger. Trick: use a spoon! Saves precious ginger and juices.
2. Cut the ginger into small pieces. Can make them thin and long (juliennes) or small cubes....whatever you like.
3. Mix the cut ginger with chopped green chillies, salt, red chilli pwd and lemon juice. keep tasting and adjust these ingredients till to achieve a taste you like. Really, its that simple and that individualistic. Just remember that the main taste is that you ginger and lime. This can be eaten now and it tastes better and tastes better and better with time. Can be stored in the fridge for 10-14 days.
Variations: Can put in some white vinegar for an additional kick. Also, can do all this with julliennes of 'mooli' (horse radish).

Now that I am living on my own, I have discovered that I dont like cooking for myself! I am soooo used to cooking for at least 6-8 people that it seems pointless doing it for one. But I do know that I need to eat properly so I am hoping that this blog provides me the excuse to continue cooking and experimenting even on my own.
Ciao from the middle of the country.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I am back in the US after 7 weeks at home....and am struggling with a major bout of homesickness :( . It seems so pointless being so far away from family sometimes. Anyway, now I will count days till december and cook my heart out.

The last few days at home were really really crazy food-wise since one person after another was vying to feed me their goodies! So one recipe at a time, I will share with you some of my most favorite recipes. Today, I wanted to try out 'kachori'. Basically it is a stuffed, fried bread. The stuffing can be ANYTHING that you complicated or as simple as you want to make it. The easiest stuffing is potatoes or peas. Mom makes a stuffing out of soaked, ground dal.....she will post that recipe soon.

Note: these are fried....but I am in need of major comfort food right now.
The simplest order of move that I follow is
a. Make the stuffing first. b. While this cools, put the oil for deep-frying on medium heat. c. While the oils heats up and the stuffing cools, make the dough. d. Make stuffed dough-balls and deep fry.

For the stuffing:
Boiled, roughly mashed potatoes 4 (or boiled mashed peas)
Red Onion, chopped finely 1
Green chillies chopped 4-5
Oil 1 tblsp
Corriander leaves chopped to taste
Corriander pwder 3tspn
Red chilli pwd 1 tsp
Amchur 1-2tsp
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Take 1 tblsp on oil in pan. Once it is hot, put in some jeera seeds. Once they pop, saute the chopped onions and green chillies for 1-2 mins. Now put in the mashed potatoes (or peas). Saute for 1 min. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until integrated. After another 1 min, the smell will tempt you to eat the stuffing right there and then! Remove this mixture from the heat and let cool.
Note: A 'healthier' way will be to simply put all the stuffing ingredients together without sauteeing them. A slightly different taste. Also, you can use any leftover veggies for the stuffing. Further, you can add or leave out any ingredient for the hard and fast rules.

For the bread:
Flour 500 grams
Oil 4 tblsp
Salt to taste
Ajwain seeds 3 pinches

Mix the flour, salt, oil, ajwain. Use water to make a dough (just like roti dough). This dough should be relatively flexible or loose since we need the elasticity in order to put in the stuffing. Make small balls of dough, diameter apprx 1inch.

Pulling it all together:

To make the actual kachori, take a clean dry rolling surface and brush it gently with oil. Now roll out one of the dough balls until it is big enough to the stuffed (do not make the this too thin, otherwise these are hellish to deep fry).
Take 1 tblsp of stuffing, put in the middle of the rolled out dough and pull together the edges of the rolled out dough until you get a round smooth ball with no trace of the stuffing showing outside. (I need to buy a camera soon! It is so hard to verbally describe some things!).
Now roll out this stuffed dough-ball into a small, round disc.

Note: this is a slightly tricky part. If the disc is too thin then the stuffing might spill out into the oil while deep frying. If it is too thick then the taste after frying is predominantly of the dough, not the stuffing. A little experimentation is needed until you find what works for you.

Deep fry this stuffed disc in hot oil on medium heat until it is golden-brown on both sides. Repeat until you run of the stuffing and the dough.

Note that while rolling out the dough we do not use loose flour to dust the dough. Instead, we use a little oil to grease this rolling surface so that the dough wont stick to the surface.

You can serve these as appetisers or snacks or a meal. Usual accompaniments are pickles or/and chutnies (corriander, mint, tamarind, 'saunth'....anything goes). Kachori's are also great as a picnic or travel food--easy to pack, taste good even when cold and do not need too many accompaniments to go along. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

One of my most favorite dishes is Rajasthani 'gatte'. These are basically gram flour nuggets cooked in a yogurt based gravy. These are really tasty, go well with rice or with any Indian breads and depending on the time available, can be made as complicated or as easy as one likes.

We make a lot of yogurt-based curries at home and I always feel that yogurt provides a good way to present strong, flavourful spices. Another reason is that yogurt is the most common souring agent used in Rajasthani cuisine (tomato and tamarind and relatively new entrants). No prizes for guessing that we belong to Rajasthan.
Mom: There is a scientific reason for the extensive use of yogurt in Rajasthan. The water contains a lot of flourides and the calcium in yogurt helps to precipitate this flouride and so helps in avoiding flourosis.

We wanted to submit this recipe for the Jivha for Ingredients event being hosted by Santhi of I apologise-- I dont know how to put URL's within the posts yet. But I dont have a digital camera yet and no scanner either so I cant take a picture of this dish. But I do hope that some of you will try this great dish nonetheless and I look forward to joining the next JFI event.

For nuggets:
Gram flour 100 grams
Oil 2 tbsp
Saunf pwd 1/2 tsp
Ajwain seeds 1 pinch
Red chili pwd 1/2 tsp
Corriander pwd 1/2 tsp
Garam masala pinch
Salt to taste
Turmeric pinch
Warm water

For gravy:
Yogurt 100 grams (beaten gently with a spoon)
Corriander pwd 1 tpsp
Saunf (fennel) pwd 1/2 tsp
Red chili pwd 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste


1. Set some water to boil.
2. For the nuggets, roast gram flour slightly till the raw flavor goes away. Take it off the flame, add oil and mix well. Add all the dry spices listed above and mix well.
3. Use a spoon to stir the mixture (in a folding motion) while you gradually sprinkle warm water over this mix. You need to do this until it is lightly bound (not watery and not totally bound like roti flour).
A word of warning here: Do NOT knead the flour mixture since we need for air to be present in the mixture in order to get soft nuggets.
5. Use wet hands to shape the mixture into long cylinder (diameter approx. 1/2 inch).
6. The water must be boiling by now. Drop in these long cylinders gently into the water and simmer till the cylinders turn white and float up in the water.
7. Remove the cylinders from water ( do not throw the water away) and cut them into bite-sized nuggets.
8. For the gravy, take 1tsp of oil in a vessel and do the 'tadka' with cumin seeds, heeng (asafoetida).
9. Once the seeds have popped reduce the heat, add the yogurt and continuously stir this mixture. Add the dry masalas (not the salt) and keep stirring till fat seperates from yogurt.
Note: This may take some time but it is worth it. Also, if you dont stir then the yogurt might seperate. That is also the reason why on most yogurt based curries, we add salt right in the end. Salt encourages the yogurt to seperate and the resulting mixture is not pretty.
10. Add the water left over from boiling the nuggets. You can add more water if required. Bring the mixture to boil and then keep it on a low flame for 5-7 minutes.
Note: This is another trick to keep the yogurt from seperating. Basically, the leftover water from the nuggets contains some gram flour which also acts as a binding agent in the gravy.
11. To pull everything together, add the nuggets to the gravy and bring to boil. This is the stage to season with salt. Garnish with corriander leaves and green chillies.

A richer version of the gravy involves onion-garlic paste. In a vessel, heat 1.5 tsp oil and do the tadka with jeera and heeng. Once seeds have popped add 2 tblsp of onion-garlic paste and roast slowly on a low flame. Once the oil seperates from the paste (when you can see lace-like formations aroung the paste in the vessel) then follow the instructions from step 9.

Some people also like to fry to the nuggets once they are boiled. We dont do that at home for everyday eating.

And in my version I do a seperate 'tadka' with jeera and red chilli powder on top of the dish right before serving. Its a great dash of color on the yellow dish and an extra layer of spice.

Ok, so it seems long and complicated. But I swear to you that its not! I have made it n-number of times in about 15-20 minutes after a long hard day struggling with my thesis! If I can do it, so can everyone else! The burst of protein (from the gram flour) and spices gives a great feeling that even removes despair arising from feeling that you are going to be in grad-school for the rest of your life!

New beginings.......and Happy Birthday!

Hi All!

After many many months of thinking about it and trying to get up my courage, I am starting a blog....that too on my birthday! But of course, being the baby that I am, I am doing it with my mom. I am Gunjan and my mom's name is Vinita, hence Vyanjanaa.

We are two very very different people, living on two different continents. One a scientist, another an economist. One a total spice freak, another more balanced. One in Delhi, another in the US. One with 4 servants, another with none! But we both love food, love the theories and the science behind food, love the almost house-to-house variations that exist, particularly in Indian cooking. We hope to share a little bit of our love of totally 'desi', down-to-earth, vegetarian 'ghar ka khanaa'. Much as we love 'makhani' paneer and 'malai' kofta curry, we dont (and cannot) eat it everyday. And there is SOOOOOO much more to north indian food than these. In fact there is so much more to Indian food now with previously "exotic" dishes now a part of everyday menus. Be it pizza, pasta or burger, once your neighbourhood "thele-walla" starts selling know its here to stay!

So welcome to our blog! This is a chronicle of experiments in trying to create totally new tastes as well as to recreate the illusive ones that always remain on your tongue and remind you of home.